‘Before I joined Wycliffe, I really did not see the difference Bible translation makes,’ says Ian Lund. ‘We had plenty of Bibles in English and so I did not understand the impact on a community.
‘But after working for over 9 years in Southern Africa, attending the Makonde Bible dedication in Northern Mozabique (pictured above), seeing the excitement of the whole community and hearing people say, “Now I know that God knows me – he speaks my language,” it is important to me that all people have the opportunity to hear God’s word in the language that is most accessible to them.’
So why did Ian get involved in Bible translation in the first place? He explains: ‘From our 20’s my wife Cheryl and I had said that if we could we would plan to stop ‘normal’ work in our mid 50’s and do something ‘useful’!
‘Chris and Ada Lyndon, who were part of our church, worked in Mozambique and we felt we could help support them while they carried out the work of Bible translation. Unfortunately, Ada died a short while before we planned to go, but we still felt we should go and help with the work in Mozambique. We did not really have a clear idea what that might be. But I ran a training centre in Mozambique and my wife started the process to become a translation consultant.’
After hearing people say ‘God speaks my language’ it is important to me that people have the opportunity to hear God’s word in the language that is most accessible to them
After some time, Ian took on a new role heading up the Human Resources work for countries in Southern Africa. ‘I spent most of my working life in a commercial organisation managing teams of up to 100 people. This meant having an understanding of HR practices and approaches but not as a ‘professional’ – my background is marketing. But there are now good online professional courses that provide the expertise to add to the personal qualities that someone may have.’
But after several years in that role, the time had come for Ian to start looking for a successor. ‘We needed someone who could be involved in HR for a longer period than I could. Someone who could be thinking about the needs of our team for the next 5–10 years and be part of putting that thinking into place.’
That proved easier said that done. ‘We went down all the usual recruitment channels, but didn’t get any interest – not even an enquiry.
‘So we started to look at our own team – not the jobs people were doing at the time, but people’s personalities and characters. In all our discussion and prayer sessions, one person’s name came to the surface. It took us two years, but in the end it has all come together.’
People are the most important part of any organisation
‘It is often said that people are the most important part of any business or organisation and this is particularly true for us. We have highly skilled people who are working with local teams to support and develop them in the work of Bible translation. Some of these are local to the countries in which work is being carried out and some are expatriates. Some of our team will be supported by donations, some may be salaried and some maybe volunteers. HR plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the people working to realise the vision for Bible translation are well supported in their work and everyday life.
‘We are working to try to remove some of the barriers to local people being involved in supporting Bible translation work – this is one area the new HR director will be involved in working on.
‘Our aim is always to serve the local work and community. Part of that is to provide training and experience so that local people can fulfil these roles, but this does not mean we do not need expatriate staff as well – it is not one or the other but both are needed.’
HR plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the people working to realise the vision for Bible translation are well supported in their work and everyday life
Ian’s team isn’t alone in this – there are hundreds of opportunities to make a real difference in the Bible translation movement so that more people can know Jesus through the Bible. A number of these are HR roles, so if you’re interested in this kind of work, we’d love to hear from you.
The exciting thing is when God is drawing people to work in Bible translation… Seeing people grow in their roles… Seeing new areas of work develop…
This work can be tremendously rewarding, says Ian: ‘The exciting thing is when God is drawing people to work in Bible translation and you can work with them to find that right role and location. Seeing people grow in their roles and then encouraging them to take supervisory or leadership roles. Seeing new areas of work develop by releasing people to try new things.
‘The challenges are working with people struggling through illness, stress, or difficulties in work relationships – Christians are not immune to these. The other hard areas are when people have to be withdrawn from an area due to security concerns. As HR people we need to ensure that there are good support networks to enable people to thrive.
I have been privileged to work with seven organisations in Southern Africa that have come together to start projects they could not start on their own
‘Our particular team is working across 17 countries in Southern Africa, with staff living in four of those countries and some also living in Europe and the US. As part of a leadership team you have a responsibility to represent your own area but also to contribute to the broader vision and work.
‘I have been privileged to work with seven other Bible translation organisations in Southern Africa that have come together to start projects that individually they could not start on their own. This has meant raising funding to employ local staff in the projects and to fund the specialist staff such as translation consultants. In the last three years, 22 new projects have been started – that is very faith building!’
Reproduced with permission from Wycliffe Bible Translators UK.